I loved the first GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014), and it instantly ranked as one of my favorite Marvel superhero movies. As such, I was really looking forward to VOL. 2, and I fully expected to like it.
I did not.
As GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017) opens, old friends Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and newly born Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) are busy saving the galaxy from bad guys, in particular taking on a giant monster in order to protect a civilization’s valuable commodity, batteries. They’re also busy arguing with each other, and their banter is certainly one of the more enjoyable parts of the movie.
When Rocket steals some of the batteries they were supposed to be protecting, Queen Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) sends an armada of ships in hot pursuit to get the batteries back. Our friendly neighborhood galaxy guardians are rescued by Ego (Kurt Russell) who claims to be Quill’s long-lost father. He’s also all-powerful and invites Quill and his friends to his own personal planet which he made himself to show his son what a wonderful life he had been missing.
Meanwhile, Yondu (Michael Rooker) has been shamed by his fellow traders because he had taken part in the buying and selling of children. Yondu decides it’s time he makes amends, and he seeks out Quill, one of those former children. And the Guardians will need his help because things are not what they seem with Quill’s dad, Ego.
The biggest problem I had with GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 is its story. The Guardians of the galaxy are a fun group of wise-cracking, in-fighting misfit superheroes, but in this movie their main adversary is Ego, and for most of the movie, they don’t even know he’s an adversary. Instead, they spend most of their time dealing with Ayesha, who really isn’t that interesting a character.
Another subplot has Gamora contending with her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), another story that isn’t all that interesting. Then there’s the cutesiness of Baby Groot. Now, I had fun watching Baby Groot, but I thought the film went overboard with all the cute stuff.
In short, I love the main characters, the guardians, and I still had fun watching them. But they’re stuck in a story here that absolutely bored me. And once more, as if it’s a mandatory part of the Marvel movie formula, there isn’t an intriguing or worthwhile villain to be found anywhere in the galaxy.
Chris Pratt returns as Star-Lord, and he’s as handsomely charming as ever, but he’s in this flat story with his dad Ego, and the character suffers for it. Likewise, while I really enjoyed Zoe Saldana as Gamora once again, she too is hindered by her main story, the ongoing rift with her sister Nebula.
Dave Bautista probably fares the best in his return as Drax, as he has some of the funnier lines in the film. But in terms of action, Drax doesn’t do a whole lot. Bradley Cooper is enjoyable again voicing Rocket, and then there’s Baby Groot. I have no problems with Baby Groot, but if the main story of this one had been stronger, I wouldn’t have found the cutesiness here with Baby Groot so grating.
Probably my favorite performance in the whole movie belongs to Michael Rooker as Yondu, in the largest supporting role in the movie. Yondu was in the first film as well, and the character is further developed this time around, and Rooker is more than up to the task of fleshing out this bright blue character.
Karen Gillan gets more screen time as Nebula as well, and a new character Mantis (Pom Klementieff) gets to enjoy some fine moments, mostly when interacting with Drax.
But the villains fall completely flat here. I had been excited about Kurt Russell playing Ego in this movie, and there’s nothing wrong with Russell’s performance, but I found the character boring. Likewise, Elizabeth Debicki did nothing for me as Ayesha. The biggest knock on these villains is their agendas are dull. Ayesha is just chasing down stolen batteries and looking for payback, and Ego is all about what his name implies. All this evil power, and nothing to do with it. What’s a villain to do?
Sylvester Stallone shows up for about five seconds as Stakar Ogord, in a role that’s clearly a set-up for a future movie.
James Gunn, who wrote and directed the first GUARDIANS movie, is back doing both here in the sequel. He scores better behind the camera than at the keyboard. I thought the film looked great. I saw it in 2D, and it looked fine, although I wouldn’t have minded seeing it in 3D, but the times didn’t work out for me. The visuals are eye-poppingly colorful and cinematic.
The action scenes are so-so. While fun and lively, none of the action scenes here blew me away. Some went on too long and made me yawn.
Again, the biggest knock on this one is its screenplay, by director James Gunn. The story did nothing for me, and the villains were disappointing. Ego has all this power and ability and he seems to know nothing about what to do with it. Boring.
And the film’s theme, that they are more than friends, that they are family, has been done to death already and didn’t add anything fresh to this sequel.
As expected, the film does have another awesome mix as a soundtrack, so there are no complaints here.
Like other Marvel movies, there is an after credits scene. No, wait, that’s not quite accurate. There are several after credit scenes, so you if you want to see them all, you have to wait till the very end of the movie. That being said, to be honest, I didn’t like any of these after-credit scenes. It’s a case where more doesn’t mean better, which is a nice microcosm of the entire movie.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 brings our entertaining squabbling guardians back to the big screen, and they are certainly fun to watch, but they’re stuck in a dull storyline that doesn’t do them justice.
The awesome mix volume 2 simply isn’t quite as awesome the second time around.
Books by Michael Arruda:
TIME FRAME, science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.
IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.
FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, short story collection by Michael Arruda.